Bicyclists- DJs provoke violence

Sunday, November 2, 2003

CLEVELAND -- Bicyclists are demanding that the nation's largest radio group be punished because disc jockeys at three stations made on-air comments they say encouraged drivers to throw bottles at bike riders or hit them with open car doors.

They say the morning show hosts at Clear Channel Communications stations in Cleveland, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., also suggested motorists blast horns at cyclists, and speed past them and slam on their brakes in front of them.

"DJs encouraging the masses to hurt people in any form is insipid, and should not go unpunished," said Edwin D. Reeves, 30, a cyclist and ceramic engineer in St. Louis.

Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, owns about 1,200 radio stations in the United States.

The company won't release transcripts or tapes of the broadcasts, but the three stations apologized on the air and Clear Channel donated $10,000 and air time to promote bicycle safety.

"We deeply regret that comments made by on-air personalities were misinterpreted. Clear Channel does not condone violence in any form and we are committed to working with the cycling community to improve cycling safety," chief executive John Hogan said in a statement.

Clear Channel, which said it was coincidental that similar comments came from three stations, said it told the stations to refer questions to corporate headquarters. It wouldn't say if the disc jockeys were disciplined.

The comments started June 30 on WMJI in Cleveland when one of the morning show personalities complained that a group of bicyclists had held him up in traffic near his home.

"The other guys started chiming in," said listener Don Barnett, service manager at Century Cycles in Medina. "Then it escalated. People started calling in."

Similar remarks came weeks later on WDCG-FM in Raleigh and KLOL-FM in Houston.

Lois Cowan, 42, who owns the Century Cycles shops in the Cleveland area, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission asking it to fine the company or take away the licenses of the three stations.

"They shouldn't be advocating things that kill people," Cowan said.

She says she's received more than 5,000 e-mails from cyclists about the issue.

Dorothy Nance of Raleigh said she and her husband sold their Clear Channel stock after she heard the bicycle comments on WDCG on Sept. 22.

Nance said the announcers were "egging listeners on, by encouraging harm to cyclists." Suggestions included throwing soft drink bottles, she said.

Thomas F. Valone, owner of seven outdoor clothing and equipment stores in North Carolina, pulled "a few thousand dollars" worth of advertising from the Raleigh station because of the comments.

FCC lawyers refuse to comment on specific complaints.

"We got a complaint about that and we are acting on that," FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell told the cyclists.


AP reporter Paul Nowell in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.


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